On Deficits, Republicans Can't Hide Their Ryan Eyes
The two weeks have not been kind to the ersatz deficit hawks of the Republican Party. First, the preposterous claims of John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and the legion of new Republican alchemists that tax cuts pay for themselves were thoroughly debunked. Making matters worse, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and the 116 members of the House Republican Study Committee unveiled a new package of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy which would add a jaw-dropping $10 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. And now, it turns out that the so-called Roadmap for America's Future touted by GOP poster boy Paul Ryan is yet another recipe for red ink as far as the eye can see.
As Mother Jones suggested, the dashing young ideas man of the Republican Party had DC's chattering class at hello. Over the past week, both the New York Times and the Washington Post profiled the co-author (with Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy) of Young Guns. But while they cited his "staccato tones" and noted that Ryan is "fit from years of an intense exercise program called P90X" and has "hair as thick as Rod R. Blagojevich's," the Post cautioned:
"Many Republican colleagues, who, even as they praise Ryan for his doggedness, privately consider the Roadmap a path to electoral disaster."
And with good reason. The Roadmap echoes George W. Bush's wildly unpopular call to privatize Social Security. More ominous, Ryan's scheme for converting the Medicare program serving 46 million Americans into a voucher system would inevitably lead to rationing. Worse still, the wealthy would receive yet another windfall from the IRS even as working Americans saw their taxes jump. And most damning, Ryan's claim that his plan would balance the budget is a charade at best and a fraud at worst.
Writing in the New York Times, Paul Krugman detailed Ryan's sleight of hand:
Mr. Ryan's plan calls for steep cuts in both spending and taxes. He'd have you believe that the combined effect would be much lower budget deficits, and, according to that Washington Post report, he speaks about deficits "in apocalyptic terms." And The Post also tells us that his plan would, indeed, sharply reduce the flow of red ink: "The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that Rep. Paul Ryan's plan would cut the budget deficit in half by 2020."
But the budget office has done no such thing. At Mr. Ryan's request, it produced an estimate of the budget effects of his proposed spending cuts -- period. It didn't address the revenue losses from his tax cuts.
The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has, however, stepped into the breach. Its numbers indicate that the Ryan plan would reduce revenue by almost $4 trillion over the next decade. If you add these revenue losses to the numbers The Post cites, you get a much larger deficit in 2020, roughly $1.3 trillion.
(The Atlantic's Megan McArdle reports that Rep. Ryan's office asked the Joint Committee on taxation for a CBO scoring, but was turned down.)
What remains of Ryan's "Let Them Eat Cake" budget, as an astonished Krugman concludes, is an unprecedented upward redistribution of wealth:
The Roadmap wouldn't reduce the deficit. All it would do is cut benefits for the middle class while slashing taxes on the rich.
And I do mean slash. The Tax Policy Center finds that the Ryan plan would cut taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population in half, giving them 117 percent of the plan's total tax cuts. That's not a misprint. Even as it slashed taxes at the top, the plan would raise taxes for 95 percent of the population.
As for what programs would be gutted to achieve the draconian 25 percent, ten year spending cut (once you adjust for inflation and population growth), "Mr. Ryan doesn't say."
And if only on that point, Paul Ryan has lots of company among the leading lights of the Republican Party. While supporting making the budget-busting, $3.8 trillion Bush tax cuts permanent, Ryan's co-author Eric Cantor "can't name a single thing he would do to reduce the deficit." Arizona's John Shadegg, too, was stumped. For their parts, Congressman Ryan and GOP White House hopeful Tim Pawlenty would trim middle class benefits through unspecified cuts to "unspent stimulus funds." As for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, he defended Jon Kyl, John Boehner, Judd Gregg, Tom Coburn, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina and a parade of other Republicans when he declared:
"There's no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy. So I think what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject."
In the real America, however, the national debt tripled under Ronald Reagan, only to double again during the tenure of George W. Bush. And as it turns out, the Bush tax cut payday for the wealthy accounted for almost half the budget deficits during his presidency and, if made permanent, would contribute more to the U.S. budget deficit than the Obama stimulus, the TARP program, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and revenue lost to the recession -- combined. Of course, you'd never know it listening to the leaders of GOP.
As Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) aptly put, that dismal performance constituted a "Republican debt orgy." Paul Ryan might even describe it as "apocalyptic." And on that score, if not his Roadmap for America's Future, Paul Ryan is would be telling the truth.
(For more background, see: "10 Republican Lies about the Bush Tax Cuts.")